Robert X. Cringely - Predictions for 2003

Gregory Burd
Tue, 7 Jan 2003 10:51:34 -0500

Did I get to post new *and* interesting bits?  I hope this isn't stale.=20=

  If it is.  Flame me.  See if I care.  ;-)

As for the content, as an ex-KnowNow emp I like: "... and that KnowNow=20=

would be the big XML success story (not yet anyway -- wrong)."  Oops,=20
oh well.  Maybe this year it will happen.

chin up, your on the right path KN!


More of the Same
Bob's Predictions for 2003

By Robert X. Cringely

It=92s time for my predictions of what will happen in high-tech and=20
high-tech business during 2003.=A0 But first, as the last honest=20
prognosticator (maybe the only honest one) I have to look at the=20
predictions I made a year ago to see how they came out.=A0 If you want =
read that old column, you can find it under the "I Like It" link on=20
this page.

I said that Microsoft would continue to expand .NET (correct), that XML=20=

would be the tool for that expansion (correct) and that KnowNow would=20
be the big XML success story (not yet anyway -- wrong). I said there=20
would be a slow resurgence of venture capital (correct) and that would=20=

lead to a rise in the number of Initial Public Offerings (well, there=20
was an increase, but it wasn't enough to count -- wrong).=A0 I said that=20=

security technology would be a big deal (correct), but that rich media=20=

wouldn't be (correct again).=A0 I said that 2002 would be a pivotal year=20=

for broadband, whatever "pivotal" means (I don't think it was --=20
wrong).=A0 I said that Microsoft would do lots of deals as it attempted=20=

to diversify a bit (correct) and that 2002 would be a good year for=20
Cisco Systems (you may not think so, but the stock is up 30 percent=20
from its rock bottom, market share has increased and gross profit=20
margins are the highest ever -- correct).=A0 That is seven correct and=20=

three incorrect predictions, maintaining my historic average of 70=20
percent right.=A0 Whew!

Now back to the future -- my predictions for 2003.=A0 These predictions=20=

may ramble a bit, primarily because I am lately having trouble keeping=20=

focused.=A0 Blame the lithium.

1. HP/Compaq will continue its long slide to oblivion.=A0 It is amazing=20=

to read lately all the news stories that say how well Carly Fiorina has=20=

done at integrating the two companies when the merger is, in fact, a=20
train wreck.=A0 Sales and market share are both down.=A0 Everything =
Hewlett said would happen is happening.=A0 The key moment was a =
showdown in October between Fiorina and former Compaq CEO Michael=20
Capellas, then the new president of HP.=A0 Capellas presented a plan to=20=

become more like Dell, building computers to order.=A0 Fiorina said it=20=

was best to stick with resellers.=A0 The board sided with Fiorina and=20
Capellas left the company two weeks later.=A0 Smart guy.=A0 Given that =
the PC retailers in America are under Chapter XI bankruptcy as that=20
industry segment dies, Capellas was right, Fiorina was wrong, and HP is=20=

toast.=A0 This is a sad end for a company with such a fine engineering=20=

and management tradition.

2. Dell gets bigger and bigger.=A0 While this is a no-brainer, it=20
introduces another concept that could probably be a prediction in=20
itself, but my list is going to be too long anyway, so we'll just bury=20=

it here.=A0 That concept is the apparent inevitability of monopolies.=A0=20=

Not that Dell will be a true monopoly, but by the end of the year, it=20
will be by far the largest company that solely makes PCs.=A0 We seem to=20=

have a lot of monopolies these days.=A0 Microsoft is one according to =
courts.=A0 Intel used to be one (more on that later).=A0 Sun is =
the dominant workstation vendor, if that category survives, that is.=A0=20=

Cisco has an effective monopoly in networking.=A0 We see it, too, in the=20=

resurgence of the Regional Bell Operating Companies as they flex their=20=

local muscles compared to the pitiful long distance carriers, who have=20=

true competition.=A0

3. At the same time, we'll see Microsoft's leadership further=20
influenced by Linux.=A0 Remember Steve Ballmer said Microsoft couldn't=20=

compete with Linux on price, so they'd have to fight on quality.=A0 =
you are laughing about that one, I'll further explain that this means=20
Microsoft will have to improve its quality and that may well happen.=A0=20=

And if it does, we can thank Linus Torvalds for doing something nobody=20=

else, including Bill Gates, could do in the preceding 25 years.

4. If Linux is giving Microsoft fits, it is doing far worse to Sun=20
Microsystems, which I predict will have a very bad 2003.=A0 As just one=20=

example, Sun is in danger of losing the semiconductor design computer=20
workstation market to Linux.=A0 Early this year, Cadence Design will be=20=

the last of the major vendors to port their software to Linux.=A0 In the=20=

server market, too, Linux is making real inroads at the expense of Sun,=20=

especially in 2003 as the 64-bit Linux boxes begin to appear.=A0 Why buy=20=

a $100,000 Sun server when a $10,000 Linux cluster is comparable in=20
every way?=A0 And don't expect too much from Sun's own Linux boxes, =
will be deliberately hobbled so they don't make problems for SPARC.

5. Meanwhile, China, which will eventually be the largest computer=20
market on earth, will standardize on MIPS processors and Linux, much to=20=

the dismay of both Sun and Intel.=A0 This bodes well, by the way, for =
with its new MIPS-based Systems-on-Chip that will be the major=20
component in many of those el cheapo Chinese computers.

6. And as I said last week, Microsoft will force Intel to Adopt AMD's=20
Opteron 64-bit extensions.=A0 There is a small possibility Microsoft =
actually buy AMD, which would really shake up the semiconductor market,=20=

but I think this is unlikely.

7. In the meantime, Apple will announce a line of computers using IBM's=20=

incredible Power 4 processor, but of course, they won't actually be=20
delivered until 2004.

8. The V.92 modem standard still won't work, but nobody will care.

9. Microsoft's Palladium security initiative will become even less=20
popular as people realize that Palladium is too intrusive and it=20
doesn't really work.=A0 A year isn't enough time for Palladium to die,=20=

but it eventually will.

10.=A0Still, security will be a bigger thing than ever, though you'll =
a subtle shift from people being worried about viruses to them being=20
furious about spam.=A0There is a key issue here, and it is that spam=20
makes money while viruses do not, so spam is going to get only bigger=20
while more and more people are successfully dealing with=20
viruses.=A0Unsolicited e-mail will be a bigger problem than ever.

11. I wish it wasn't so, but by the end of 2003, I am sure we'll see at=20=

least four new laws giving corporations the right to invade our=20
privacy, with most of those laws passed in the name of "patriotism."

12.=A0Hollywood will come up with another new copy protection scheme for=20=

music and it will be defeated within two months.=A0 Even more =
is the fact that 2003 will see a whole new generation of peer-to-peer=20
file sharing software.=A0Remember, Napster required a central server and=20=

Gnutella replaces that with a zillion individual PCs, but this next=20
generation will probably be some form of swarm computing -- a=20
distributed network file system that will chop up the music into a=20
hundred pieces each stored on a different participating PC.=A0So when =
RIAA confiscates your computer, they won't be able to find anything=20
stored on it resembling music.

13. 802.11a loses out to 802.11g.

14. I'm sorry to be mysterious about this one, but I seriously doubt=20
that there will be a significant act of high-tech terrorism in 2003,=20
yet I think there will emerge an entirely new way to use the Internet=20
to effect social change.=A0 Just as Chinese fax machines made inevitable=20=

the events at Tiananmen Square, so the Internet will bring the world's=20=

attention in an entirely new way to social issues -- much to the dismay=20=

of the status quo.

15. And finally, with the continued (and to me totally inexplicable)=20
rise of web logs, someone -- maybe Google -- will come up with an=20
effective blog search engine to read all that junk for us and extract=20
what we really care about.

Notice I didn't predict an end to the current recession.=A0 That's too=20=

hard to call, but it should be a very interesting year.